Distracted driving has slowly become second nature to drivers. Though we don’t get behind the wheel with the intentions to disregard traffic, I can’t be the only one pleading guilty of not always giving the road my full and undivided attention.
As you make your morning commute to work, chances are that within minutes of merging onto the freeway you’ve already been fiddling with the radio, sent a quick text message, checked your hair in the mirror and maybe even programmed your GPS for the quickest route to the office.
Did you know that each and every time you check your phone to send a text or choose a new song, you take your eyes away from the road for an average of five seconds? If you’re driving at a speed of 55 MPH, in five seconds you’ve traveled about 100 yards – the entire length of a football field.
With your eyes focused on your smartphone instead of the road, there’s a lot of damage that can be done in 100 yards. Imagine if you were traveling on the highway at 70-80 MPH…
What Is Distracted Driving?
The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) defines distracted driving as, “any activity that could divert a person’s attention away from the primary task of driving” – and in the age of technology, the distractions are endless.
Smartphones and voice-activated devices have made it easy for the busy to give into multitasking. With an all-in-one communications, entertainment, and information device at the palm of your hands, the temptation to look down is higher than ever before.
Whether you’re stopped at a red light, sitting in bumper-to-bumper traffic, or cruising down the highway at 70 MPH, checking your smartphone is dangerous at any point in time while behind the wheel.
Cell phones aren’t the only things increasing the statistics around distracted driving; there are a number of equally dangerous diversions taking focus away from the road, such as:
- Eating or Drinking
- Passenger Distractions
- Personal Grooming
- Rubbernecking in crash or work zones
- Adjusting the radio, and more
With multiple possibilities for interference, Lee Ciccarelli, a West Chester accident attorney, has provided the chart below showing accident statistics from 2015. The chart compares the number of accidents that were caused by distracted drivers to the number of accidents caused by other factors. In the span of only one year, over 14,000 motor vehicle accidents caused by distracted drivers were reported in the state of Pennsylvania – making distracted driving the second leading cause for car crashes. 14,805 auto accidents were due to drivers not paying attention to the road. That equals approximately 40 crashes per day – and these numbers only represent a single state.
“Just like drunk driving in the 80s, there needs to be a countrywide movement to educate everyone of all ages that distracted driving kills”, says Emily Stein, the president of Safe Road Alliance.
Safe Road Alliance is a nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting safer driving. The group has one goal and that is to make all drivers better drivers. The nonprofit strives to educate all ages of drivers, from teenagers to elderly drivers on safety topics such as seat belt usage and distracted driving. Although educating teens on safety behind the wheel is of high importance, all drivers would benefit from the program.
Safe Road Alliance provides educational services including hands-on, advanced driver strategies that are learned in a safe and controlled environment.
The Department of Transportation has also recently jumped in to help promote safe driving. With phrases like, “Get your head out of your Apps” and “Exit to Text-It”, the masterminds behind these digital traffic signs hanging above city freeways have gotten creative – and though it might seem silly, these 54-character memos have really started to grab drivers’ attention.
However as clever and as humorous as the one-liners may be, traffic engineer Tracey Bramble comments, “We’re doing this to try to save lives. We’re not doing it to get a chuckle. We’re trying to change people’s behavior.”
Even without the statistics above, the dangers of distracted driving are well-known. “Phones and other distractions are the cause of about a quarter of all crashes on American roads, but has knowledge of this risk actually stopped you or your neighbors from taking that call, answering that text, or posting that Facebook status? We’ve all noticed – the answer is ‘no.’”
With hopes to bring distracted driving to an end, the partnership for distraction-free driving made up of the National Safety Council, Safe Roads Alliance and many other organizations, have launched a petition. The petition encourages social media companies to do the following:
- Implement a warning sign upon opening apps
- Issue a public statement that these companies do not condone the use of social media while driving
- Partner with highway safety advocates to develop policies to discourage the use of social media while behind the wheel
Falynne Knight was born and raised in Phoenix, Arizona. In 2015 she earned a degree in Journalism and Mass Communication from Arizona State University. In 2016 Falynne moved to sunny San Diego where she is currently working at a digital marketing company.